Milt graduated from Thurmont High School in 1935. Gayle Spessard grew up on Church Street in Hagerstown and was visiting family near Thurmont when Milt first saw her.
“He saw her and thought, ‘Boy, that’s a really beautiful woman,’” Bev said. Milt was five years older, but Gayle quit school because she was ready to get married.
She was 16 and he was 21 when they eloped to Baltimore in February 1940, returning to Thurmont to live.
About Christmas of 1940, the couple decided to go to California, but returned to Hagerstown before Bev was born in September 1941. Buddy was born two years later.
Milt previously had gone to California “to strike it rich,” but came east when that didn’t happen, Brian said.
“He was entrepreneurial. He really was,” Bev said.
Milt was working at Fairchild when Buddy was born, which meant he had a draft deferment. He wanted time off to be home with his new son and when the company refused, he took the time anyway.
When Milt returned to work, he was handed his toolbox and shown the door. The draft notice promptly arrived in the mail.
Gayle got a job at Fairchild while Milt was away.
While on a combat training mission with the U.S. Army Air Corps, the B-24 Liberator bomber Milt was on crashed. Milt and the entire crew aboard survived.
He was serving as a chaplain’s assistant in Okinawa when the war ended.
Milt’s love for flying continued and while working at his first restaurant, The Donut Shop (his second restaurant was named in honor of Gayle), he was asked by Daniel Dentler of Dentler Brothers Furniture to go in on the purchase of a small airplane, which he did.
The plane was named Rudolph because it had a yellow and red body and a red nose, Bev said. Bev’s childhood memories include lots of family airplane rides. She said he gave Max Krumpe, founder of Krumpe’s Do-Nuts, his first plane ride.
“We would fly over the Hagerstown Fair at night to see the lights or go to Harrisburg. He was a daredevil,” Bev said, noting that her father liked to swoop down on bystanders. “I just think he was always adventurous.”
Brian was born on Father’s Day in 1956, two days before Milt’s birthday. In those days, fathers were not included in the delivery, so Milt was at the airport when he got the news of his son’s birth.
The couple also had four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
In addition to attending air shows at Andrews Air Force Base and in the Washington, D.C., area with her parents and Buddy, Bev also remembers the family driving down to Leesburg, Va., on Sunday nights to watch radio and television broadcaster and entertainer Arthur Godfrey, who lived in Leesburg, take off in his plane headed back to New York to tape his show.
Bev said Milt had Godfrey’s autograph on Milt’s pilot’s license.
“That’s the kind of stuff we did,” Bev said.
Gayle’s death in 1992, after almost 52 years of marriage, sent Milt into a tailspin. He still went to air shows with Brian and took up antique cars as a new hobby, Brian said.
“I think he missed her terribly because she did everything for him,” Bev said. “I think if he hadn’t had the store next door and Brian next door, it would have been a different story.”
Brian said his father loved going to automobile auctions in Harrisburg and York, Pa., and at age 93, still was driving cars back from auction.
“He thrived on that,” Brian said.
As of June, Milt still was driving. Even though he had never had any major illnesses, his body started failing him and by July 4, he had stopped walking and slowly declined until his death.
After almost 50 years in Smithsburg and serving on the town council for 20 years and as a life member of the town’s fire company and ambulance company, Milt’s death will leave a void in many organizations, as well as in the lives of friends and family.
“It’s going to be a big adjustment,” Brian said. “I’ve been around him just about every day of my life.”
Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Milton D. Lawyer, who died Aug. 28 at the age of 94. His obituary was published in the Aug. 30 edition of The Herald-Mail.